What better way to come back to a writer’s-block induced blogging break than with a (nearly) wordless post, right? Note to self: In the future, maybe remember to bring a real camera …
I brought this delicious little lovelies to a fun FRG event Friday night. Making mosaics is nice, but hummus and veggies is amazing! (Click here for the super simple recipe!)
Saturday morning I rolled out early (for me) for a little volunteering and was super excited to need my sunglasses for a change! I <3 sunny days, and Saturday was a beauty!
Spent a few hours organizing over a hundred beautiful gowns for the Third NBK Formal Fashion Swap! I love the idea of helping spouses find military ball gowns for ZERO DOLLARS!
My favorite fast food ever … Coney and Ched ‘R Peppers for me, please!
Seussical the Musical at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse! Fantastic!
After our Saturday adventures I stopped taking pictures … didn’t figure anyone would be interested in my commissary trip or the baskets I bought at Joanns! lol
What did you do this weekend?Read more
My Non-Existent Non-Navy Life
Hello! Good morning! Happy Friday from the blogger who seems to have forgotten how to blog!
How are you?
I am … wordless, it seems. I can’t tell you how many times in the last few weeks I’ve sat down with my laptop and a great topic for you only to sit and stare at the screen wondering where I ever came up with words in the first place. The only words I can come up with lately are … wow, writing is hard.
I tried writing about deployment … again, but I really don’t want to think about deployment right now. I tried writing about our never-ending wait for orders, but that only made me sad and angry and frustrated. There is a piece about observing colors and teaching kids to observe colors rolling around my skull, but it doesn’t seem to want to come out, and I’m on the cusp of a few things about military birthday balls, but those, too, seem stuck inside what I’m now quite sure is nothing more than a hat-holder.
Then I thought … well, this blog is about the life I lead back on land. Does it ALL have to be about the Navy? Can’t I write just a piece or two about our world that isn’t touched by the military? Of course! Why not?!? It’s MY blog about MY life, right?
I really thought I was onto something so I started brainstorming that areas of my life that aren’t all about the Navy … and the storm slowed to a drizzle.
My friends … I met because of a Navy move and mostly through Navy groups (FRG, Compass, etc).
My kids … military brats. Many of our current parenting decisions are currently being weighed because of orders and deployments.
My marriage … couldn’t BE more Navy. Currently all our good talks revolve around orders, a friend who was recently promoted, orders, the goings on of our boat friends (yes, aka gossip), orders … you get the point.
My own hobbies! Surely that’s … Compass and blogging and the occasional run I take (always on the base) …
I guess I’d never realized just how much of my life is shaped by being a part of a military family. It doesn’t bother me exactly, but … but … but …
So … still stumped as to what to write here on the blog for you, but for now I have a question for you. How much of YOUR life is wrapped up in or in some large way touched by being a military spouse? Do you have ANYTHING that is purely yours? Please let me know in the comments!
Taking Care of You Before a Deployment
I am often asked, “What’s your BEST tip for preparing for deployment?” As an Ombudsman you might think my answer would be something about Power of Attorney or military ID expiration dates.
Those are really important, but my BEST tip for preparing for deployment goes like this …
Take a piece of paper and a pen into a quiet room, and sit down. Walk through all your memories of you last deployment, and write down everything that sucked. Everything. Once you have that list sit down with your sailor, and figure out how you can head this problems off at the pass.
Did your car up and die last patrol? Talk to your sailor! If the car is something he normally takes care of, work out a schedule for your sailor to do routine maintenance before he leaves. Find out the name and phone number of a trusted mechanic. Learn to check the oil or change a tire before he leaves again.
Did you expect daily emails and felt hurt when you barely received them once a week? Talk to your sailor! Ask for more. Ask for what you need, and then work out a compromise. Maybe sending daily emails is just impossible on his work schedule, but perhaps he could aim for 3 or 4? Ask your sailor if there will be times when he is unable to email or when the boat won’t be sending emails at all. It’s MUCH BETTER to know there won’t be email than to incessantly check your inbox and be disappointed. My sailor once told me that there’s just nothing to talk about, but when we talked about it and he realized how important ANY WORDS would be to me, he has made a much bigger effort to send longer emails!
Were you jealous when a friend got flowers every.single.month? Talk to you sailor! Maybe he didn’t think spending $150-200 on flowers was in your budget. Maybe he didn’t even know you wanted flowers or that he could schedule deliveries that far in advance. And be honest! Is it really flowers that you want, or are you just looking for some token that he’s thinking of you. My sailor buys greeting cards and writes letters inside for me and my girls to open at special times while he’s gone, and let me just say … flowers are nice, but knowing I have a note waiting for me on my nightstand when I need it is awesome.
Notice a trend here? TALK TO YOUR SAILOR! The key to any good relationship is communication, but when your significant other spends about six months of each year under the ocean in a submarine, it’s crucial. Not only is it okay to tell your sailor what you need, it’s important! Oftentimes, I think we only think of pre-deployment in terms of getting our sailors out to sea safely and tending to their needs for a good patrol, but you are important, too. You stay behind. You keep the housing running. You take on the solo parenting duties of your children. Make sure your needs are taken care of, too!
During our most recent patrol, my sailor sent emails with more words than I normally hear from him on land. He had flowers delivered several times, and he left behind the cards and letters that I love so very much. It was amazing and made a HUGE difference in how I dealt with the deployment. Lucky me, right? Well, while I do consider myself to be a pretty lucky Navy Wife, I also have to attribute some of if to the many conversations we had prior to about how to meet each others needs during the long months apart!
On Learning to Love The Duty Station I Once Hated
Our pack-out and cross-country trip from Connecticut to Washington was relatively easy. The packers were nice, the driver was a hoot, and we spent two glorious weeks seeing all the sites from there to here. Our arrival and subsequent move-in process? It did not go as swell.
For starters, housing was an issue. As in we didn’t fit into the tiny units available on base, and property managers out in town seemed uninterested in taking our calls. When we finally found a house, we’d been in it for all of ten days when all the snow we were told never happened in Washington coated the ground, melted off, and then FROZE into a dangerous layer of forget-about-getting-out-of-this-house ice. Oh, and did I mention the power outage and our four-wheel drive Jeep nearly colliding with a brick wall? Yeah … by the end of two weeks I was ready to throw in the towel and hightail it back to the East Coast.
(And yes, I do see the irony of moving back to CONNECTICUT to get away from snow and ice. You just had to be here …)
Unfortunately, this not-so-awesome start set the tone for how I felt about Washington for a very long time, and I spent several years hating every single thing about it. It’s too cloudy. It’s too far from the ocean. I feel smothered by the mountains. I miss my family. I miss my friends. People can’t drive here. The roads are ridiculous. This is not my home. I simply don’t fit in.
I hated it here, and I wasn’t afraid to let it be known.
(Somewhere in Arkansas, my sister’s head just rolled right of her shoulders from all the yes-nodding.)
Then one morning on our drive to preschool, my youngest daughter said, “Wow! Aren’t the mountains pretty this morning, Mommy?” I looked up just as we crested that one hill on Highway 303 and for the first time really saw them. It was a sight to behold, and the realization of the beauty I’d been missing out on really hit home.
From that moment on I began taking note of things I really liked about Washington. The farmers markets. The festivals. The freakishly long days of summer. My list of likes grew rather quickly, but I stubbornly held on to my “I hate it here” attitude.
To get myself out into the world, I did what I do best. I volunteered. I lead the FRG for a while. I found a real home in the Compass classroom. I even took on the mantle of Ombudsman, and in each new group I found more and more friends. I built a no-fail support network of the best kinds of Navy wives, but still I often claimed, “Washington just isn’t home.”
Then my husband came home one day said the words I’d been longing to hear …
I’m in my window for orders.
Followed by the words I’d been secretly dreading …
I’m trying really hard to stay in Washington.
I was shocked. Hadn’t we hated Washington together for four long years now? Hadn’t we dreamed of the day we could hightail it out of here and return to our East Coast world? Had he forgotten about the SUN?!?
Because this billet is the best thing for my career. Because Aubrey could graduate here instead of being a new kid her Senior year. Because Sydney and Alli are kind of growing up here.
He had all the right reasons in the world, but I mean … Washington?!? Really? Aren’t there Navy bases, good opportunities and good schools on the East Coast?
I sulked about it for a while.
I really wanted to move back to Georgia. I know it’s hot there … really hot … like poor-Alli-would-probably-melt-hot, but I loved it there! Ten years ago … when we knew folks there … I know one person there now.
Connecticut would have been great, too! Even though some of my friends have moved away … and I don’t even care to teach dance anymore … and the amazing elementary school that was such a big part of our lives is, I’ve heard, completely different …
Heck! I’d even try out Virginia for a change if he’d just get me back to the damn East Coast! Even though we’ve never lived there … and we’ve heard pretty terrible things about it …
Sigh … my list of likes continued to grow, and the reasons to leave made less and less sense. Then one day, a very wise friend who I’ll call Yoda (or Judy, because her name is Judy) said to me, “But, you know, if we ever went back it wouldn’t be the same. The people are different. Some have moved, and the rest have changed. We’d live in a different house and go to different schools. It would all be different. Even if you lived somewhere for a really long time, when you leave and go back, it’s all new all over again.”
And she’s right. As much as I’d give my left arm to see Nicole again, Georgia has little left to offer me, and as far as I’d go to see my gals in Connecticut, the fact of the matter is that my life … my husband, my daughters, my Washington friends, my volunteer work … they’re here now … in Washington. I never noticed in all the time I spent hating the Evergreen State that I was slowly growing the roots of another Navy home.
Because that’s what we do. We don’t just unpack houses; we create homes. We don’t just meet the people; we grow new families. We don’t just live at a duty station; we move in, set up shop, and make it our own.
And that’s how it happened, how I learned to love Washington. Slowly, piece by piece, a bit a time without even knowing it. And then, with the help of my friend, Yoda, and a startling realization, all at once and completely.
I Sometimes Hate the Navy
I’m a pretty pro-Navy gal. I am beyond proud to be married to a submariner. I love that our family has lived in four states and on two coasts. I think my kids are stronger for the life we lead, and I know they’ve had and continue to have a million opportunities that outside of this lifestyle, we would not have been able to give them.
But I sometimes hate the Navy.
I’m not trying to sound ungrateful because trust me, I’m not. I really appreciate the security of my husband’s job and pay. I am thankful for the healthcare we receive. I happily shop at the commissary each week, and I’m pleased as punch to take my kids to the free Saturday movie on base every so often.
But I sometimes hate the Navy.
A few years ago, on a Saturday night, my girls and I sat down to watch a movie before bedtime. Before it began, we put on our jammies, gathered up snacks, and let our little dog, Jay, out for his last pit stop of the evening. About halfway through the movie I realized we’d forgotten poor Jay outside and went to let him in only to discover he wasn’t on his lead anymore. I searched the yard, under the porch, and in every nook and cranny I could think of, but Jay was missing.
At this point I guess I should mention two things.
- Jay was a fat little Boston Terrier, very even tempered, thirteen years old, and, for all intents and purposes, both blind and deaf.
- Josh (my husband) was, of course, on duty.
I waited a bit, thinking Jay might just wander back up since he absolutely never left our yard, but he didn’t. Then I drove around the neighborhood looking in every driveway and doorway, hoping and praying that I’d find him mistakenly clawing on some other family’s front door, but he wasn’t. He was lost, and if you’ve never tried to search for a blind and deaf dog in the pitch black of night, let me just tell you … it’s impossible.
I searched for a long time that night and the next morning before finally calling the boat to tell my husband.
“Well, I should be home within the hour. I’ll help you look then,” my sailor said to his very concerned wife at around 9am.
“I have a situation here that I just have to deal with, but I’ll be home by lunch,” he apologized when an hour had come and gone.
“I’m on way home now,” he said quietly at five o’clock as I shared my sad conviction that our family dog had wandered off to die alone in the cold night.
That day I hated the Navy.
I was so sad and scared and angry when Josh got home. I just screamed at him, “I have done many things without you for the Navy! I have raised our children alone for months at a time. I have watched my father dying! I had first degree burns on one hand and a one year old on my hip ALONE in a pharmacy by myself! I packed and moved our entire apartment alone! But I needed you today! I needed you! But THE NAVY always comes first, and I HATE IT!”
I wasn’t even angry at Josh because I knew he was just doing his job, but I was pissed as hell at the boat, the mission, and the entire damned fleet because as tough as I am and as much as I can handle all alone without him, on that ONE DAMN DAY I needed him and he couldn’t be there … because of the Navy.
On that day I hated the Navy, every single bit of it, and on that day I might have traded it all in for a 9-to-5 husband and a cute little ranch-style house that I could live in with my family for the rest of my life.
There have been other days of hating the Navy. The morning of his second deployment when I hugged him good-bye with one arm and held our one-week old daughter in the other. The months of loneliness of his first patrol here in Washington as I drowned in depression. Just a little bit every single time I make the mistake of counting all the birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmases we’ve spent without him.
So why … with all that, all the trauma, the emotional pain, the sad, lonely memories without him … why am I still this pro-Navy, Compass-teaching, Ombudsman-preaching, sitting-in-the-front-row FRG fanatic?
Because what my husband does is important. Because I and the rest of America can sleep easy at night because my husband and hundreds of thousands of sailors just like him stand the watch. Because when my sailor has to be away someone else’s sailor gets to come home.
Because my husband chose this life, and I chose him, and together we choose to raise three Navy brats who have traveled from sea to shining sea, had lunch in the galley of the USS Lousiana, and watch in wide-eyed wondered as the mighty Maine rolled by knowing that our sailor proudly serves there.
I sometimes hate the Navy … but I all-the-time love my sailor, and somehow that balances it all out.
Because I’ve told this story in class before and have learned from my mistakes … the postscript to the story of my sweet little Jay is that he was, in fact, only lost. He had been found by a neighbor, but his collar was missing so they had taken him to the Humane Society. We found him a few very long days later and brought him home where he lived out his last days with our family. If you’d like to read more about our sweet little Jay and about how we dealt with his passing, I wrote about them in the earliest days of this blog here.